Zuri hit the six month mark at the end of February, wow how time has flown! Each and every day Zuri is gaining confidence and exploring her surroundings more and more. Zombi is always close by but is giving Zuri the time and space to learn the necessary skills required to be a chimp. Zombi is gradually moving a few metres away from Zuri so that she can develop her crawling skills. She is also letting her climb up onto the mesh areas of the exhibit where she spins and hangs from one arm!
We've had an eventful past couple of weeks over at the chimp house. Soona has finally come into season and had her first major swelling since coming off of birth control. This has been an exciting time for the chimp group; Soona has definitely been receiving a lot of attention from the males and seems to have a soft spot for Sandali, the youngest. Overall, however, the group is still quite settled.
Well the countdown is on for our impending chimp baby! We have all our plans in place, the building prepared and staff are as ready as they can be. Zombi could be due any day and up until the early part of September. She is looking fantastic. Her coat is glossy and her hair has lengthened in the areas that she grows it – Zombi is very distinctive because she doesn't grow hair on her fore and upper inside arms. She has an ever increasing, healthy appetite and comes over each morning for a cup of herbal raspberry leaf tea. Many human females drink the same tea to help prepare the uterus for birth! Zombi and I have formed a close bond since her arrival and she along with Tsotsi are the two chimps I buddied with to train and teach new behaviors. Zombi has always been slow and steady with her progress. She is very eager but it takes her a little bit of time to determine the behavior I'm asking for. Over the last few weeks she's become much more comfortable with presenting her belly and will allow me to gently prod. I must admit touching her belly and then thinking, gee there's a baby in there is a real wow moment!
How do the chimps keep warm in winter? With Sheridan linen of course! The chimps have just had another delivery of Sheridan sheets, towels and blankets donated to them. This is greatly appreciated by the chimp group and means keepers can continue to provide them with lovely bedding through the cold winter months. Chimps in the wild don't have access to blankets and live in more tropical weather conditions; they would instead use foliage available to them for nesting.
Not only for nesting, you can often spot the chimps wrapped in sheets while out on exhibit.
Last Saturday shaped up to be a sunny afternoon, which was a big difference from the dark and cold morning that myself and Laura were faced with when we started work at 6:00am to get the chimp building ready for the members event, Breakfast with the Chimps.
Everyone was thinking hard about what to enjoy for breakfast last Saturday!
It has been a really exciting few months at Monarto Zoo's chimpanzees house. As many of you know Zombi is pregnant with approximately three months to go until the big day. We're putting multiple plans and procedures in place to prepare for the birth. This is the first pregnancy for the Monarto chimp group and we hope will result in our first successful infant. Zombi has definitely developed a belly and a new increased appetite. We're monitoring her closely and working with our vets to ensure she has the required nutrients, including giving her Foliate supplements as part of her already extensive diet. If you come to visit the group, Zombi is a very distinctive female. She's the lady with the incredibly large biceps and will often be found resting in the sun with her hand over her belly!
Pleasantly plump Zombi taking a break in the sun. Photo: Dave Mattner
Hi, my name is Laura Hanley and I'm currently the Acting Senior Keeper of Primates at Monarto Zoo. I've worked with the majority of species at Monarto for more than 10 years and more recently with the Zoo's primates.
Check it out - that's world-famous Primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall's ponytail behind Laura!
The Chimpanzee facility at Monarto Zoo is a large building with many different levels and areas for the chimps to climb and swing from. Unfortunately, chimp Keepers aren’t quite as agile as the chimps themselves which can make cleaning difficult and at times a little dangerous. One of the biggest challenges in the exhibit is a large mezzanine level that requires daily cleaning. To ensure everyone is kept safe while working in this area Keepers wear a harness. For some serious training, and a bit of a laugh, the chimp team was sent off to do a Working Safely at Heights course.
Here we are again wondering where the year has gone, to think the chimp girls have been here for over twelve months now is just amazing! It's been a busy year in the Chimp House; Galatea's arm seems to have settled down after the brake and now we're working on building her confidence around us. She is a little wary after all the hands on work that had to be done when her arm was injured.
Galatea is one of our female chimps that arrived from Burgers Zoo last November. She came from a high ranking family and had a close relationship with her mother and younger brother. Since arriving at Monarto she has slowly been coming out of her shell and has been finding her place in the group. Unfortunately Galatea broke her arm in March and subsequently had a few operations. This made gaining her trust and building her confidence a difficult task.
Over the last month we have been working hard to increase Galatea's confidence. We have started a new training regime, which has enabled us to work on her trust issues and slowly increase her confidence levels.
I recently had one of the most memorable moments on chimps. It was made even more significant because the chimp at the centre of this story is Galatea.
The last few weeks have been very exciting for the Monarto primate team. Zombi is having her first swelling since removing her contraception. At first the males were unsure about mating with Zombi but over the last few days they are much more confident!
Tsotsi has been staying very close to Zombi throughout this period. He is no longer attached at the hip to the other males in the group, but is instead demonstrating his alpha status by allowing no other male near Zombi. This is an exciting period for all but in no way guarantees pregnancy - so keep your fingers crossed!
He may not own a television station or network but Tsotsi the chimp is definitely on the rise.
It has been nearly a month now since the incident between Boyd and Tsotsi occurred and since this time things have definitely calmed down. Tsotsi and Boyd have shaken hands and feet and are settling into their respective roles well. Tsotsi has gained the support of the rest of the group in his new role as alpha. An alpha must be strong but also be tolerant, fair and gentle... attributes which Tsotsi is displaying amongst the group; he can often be seen having tickling “games’ with the younger females, or playing footsy with Gombe.
Many people have been asking how the chimp group is going, in particular Boyd. The incident that occurred a few weeks ago was between Boyd, Gombe and Tsotsi. Boyd unfortunately received bite wounds to his head and lost part of his thumb.
You may have heard that Galatea, one of our female chimps at Monarto, broke her arm a couple of days ago. Not sure exactly how it happened; could have been collateral damage from boisterous displaying by the boys or simply an unfortunate misadventure.
Keepers first noticed the injury as they were let out to the exhibit to feed - so it was a while before they could get them back in... Galatea went around feeding as usual!
Since the arrival of the new female chimps to Monarto we have closely been monitoring the group dynamics. Over the last month we have been monitoring a ‘challenge’ from both Gombe and Tsotsi to Boyds ‘alpha’ position.
We have essentially not had an alpha for the last two weeks whilst the chimps have developed/established a new hierarchy. From all our observations we are happy to announce that Tsotsi is the new alpha of the group. This could of course change at any stage but for the time being he is the new man of the big chimp house!
Over the last couple of weeks it seems as though two of our male chimps, Tsotsi and Gombe, have been competing against our oldest male Boyd for the top job in the chimp group. Trying to over throw old Boyd is not an easy task.
It’s not Boyd’s style to respond in violence and aggression; he would rather have a big “tantrum” lying on his back kicking and screaming until the other chimps give in and leave him alone or come back and offer him reassurance!
Another quick update about how it’s all going in chimp world.
If you come up and visit, stand on the viewing platform and just watch what the chimps are up to - it’s a pretty relaxed and interesting life for these guys now the girls have come to stay.
On the nice sunny days you will see the girls outside in their habitat soaking up the rays (trying to get rid of the last of their European moon tans!) exploring all the nooks and crannies, jumping in and out of the shrubs, climbing the trees (chasing rabbits if they are quick!) and playing with the boys. It really is so nice to see 8 chimps out in the ‘wildness’ of their new home.
Since the last blog update all of our lovely chimps have been doing great!
Of course being a Chimpanzee is very political, so there has been a few adventures, fights and love! Most of the time our new chimpanzee group gets along very well. Everyone in the group still needs to find their place, so there has been a few disagreements, but nothing too big.